Digital Citizenship Students

The impact the overuse of technology has on humans and the environment

This blog post would like to critically examine the driving factors that see an acceleration in the use of communicative technology. The general theme throughout will be how technology is taking away from human interaction and increasing other social issues. To carry out this research, the blog will explore the disruption in relationships in society and also explore the consequences for the environment.

When it comes to technology it would be an agreeable statement by many that if it were taken away from us, anxiety levels would go through the roof. Everyone in society today uses their phones countless times throughout the day. Trying to keep someone’s attention can be difficult these days and not just in formal settings.

What impacts technology has when overused

Technology plays a vital part in adolescent’s lives. Over eighty per cent of teenagers and young children have access to some form of communicative technology. Mobile phones play a huge part within social interaction particularly within young groups. It is mainly used to keep up to date with friends and keep a sense of belonging within a group. However, most children are using their phones during time that is designated for sleep (Vernon et al., 2017).

Research results…

Vernon et al (2017) conducted research among children in Australia in order to ascertain if using their phones during sleep hours were linked to psychosocial deterioration. The study found that as adolescents got older, their usage of mobile phones during sleep hours increased and so did their sleeping behaviors. This puts a strain on young teenager’s ability to cope with the daily challenges of life in school and out. In order to maintain good physical and mental health, it is recommended that you sleep eight to ten hours at night. This study shows that sleep time is decreased by excessive phone use (Vernon et al., 2017).

The criticisms

It could be argued that this research is highly relevant and provides a strong link to psychosocial deterioration that has descended upon the Irish nation in recent years. Particularly in adolescents in which depression and Anxiety is a growing concern. Health Correspondent Regan (2013), outlines that Irish youth may have higher rates of mental health problems compared to other European countries and the USA. The research was carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons which involved four hundred people between the ages of Eleven and Twenty-four years old (Regan, 2013).

Even though this research was not linked to the excessive use of technology and was more related to substance abuse, the core idea here is that Ireland has an ongoing problem with mental health moreover than most other countries. It is very difficult to underpin the dominant cause of psychosocial deterioration as the cause varies from the individual circumstance. The interesting factor within this is what if social media and excessive phone use was included in this study? What would the additional discoveries answer in relation to excessive drug use and psychosocial deterioration? It definitely would extend the scope of the research and strengthen possible conclusions in the aim of reducing the issue of substance abuse.

Digital Babysitters V’s Human Babysitters?

Technology can be used as digital babysitters by parents who have busy work schedules. Parents use the technology so they can keep their children occupied. It is becoming common that children under the age of two can use technology but cannot yet speak. This impacts on their development. Children are having difficulty in reaching out and grasping objects and therefore affecting their ability to develop the use of their body (Ted Talk, 2016).

Who is to blame? The Parent or the Child?

Vernon et al (2017) suggested that ‘parents and teachers should educate children more on their excessive mobile phone habits.’ (1). Where does the finger of blame point between parents and their children? Parents have intergraded their children with technology from a young age. Based on this suggestion young people grow up as digital zombies.  Adolescents cannot get enough of technology and parents use technology as a tool to keep the child happy. How does parents now intervene in their children’s use of technology when they have encouraged it for so long remains the problem?

These days’ adults and adolescents alike are glued to their phones and have become what is defined by some experts as digital zombies. We have loads of interesting information available to us and therefore it makes it difficult for us to tune out. The idea of mobile phone technology is to connect the world. Negatively, it is having a reverse affect and instead disengaging with the world around us.

The addiction is real. Can you really put your phone down?

The term ‘digital zombie’ is fairly accurate when reflected on. People check their mobile phones on numerous occasions which disturbs the quality time they should be spending with friends or family. People go online when they commute to work, wait for appointments or any spare chance they get really. Society is more interested in the online world that the physical world. The overall objective is not how often phones are used but more how often does it block people from enjoying normal day to day life.

Carr (2017) observes that when one interacts with the internet they are constantly processing information for the duration of engagement with their devices. The net chips away at our concentration because the minds expect to receive information as quick as the net alerts people to it (Carr, 2017).

What’s the big addiction?

The research outlined previously in this blog by Vernon et al (2017) and Regan (2013) raise crucial issues when initiating factors that may cause the overuses of technology (Vernon et al., 2013; Regan, 2013). The main reason people over engage with phones is to obtain information. There is dismissing that fact. Let it be finding out the weather or celebrity gossip, one thing all people use the internet for is getting information of some sort otherwise the internet would serve no purpose. These days information received links in with personal interests through the form of cookies. The brain absorbs the information as quick as it becomes available online via notifications.

Easy accessibility

Weckler (2015) draws attention to a Dublin based research firm Statcounter. They illustrate the point that Ireland have the highest number of people using phones to access the internet instead of laptops and computers. Ipsos MRBI reinforce the fact that over half the population use social media on phone apps as opposed to websites. Why? Ireland has always historically talked and texted more than any other country in Europe. However, we have competitive phone companies and 4G data can be obtained very cheap (Weckler, 2015).

Recycling is key

There is loads of good things about technology hence why people spend so much time on it. It would be pointless if this blog were to discuss the good benefits of technology as people are already aware of that. The big emphasis is on the overuse of technology and unfortunately our overuse of technology has an impact on the environment also. To focus on the issues of the environment, it would be imperative to focus on e-sustainability and the implications that follow us when we do not recycle our technology devices.

Save on your energy bills

The overuse of mobile phones and technology is the theme within this blog. To use mobile phone and electronic handheld devices, they need to be charged. The more use the phone gets leads to more power consumed to charge it thus leading further to the purchase of a new phone. With all this in mind, what impact is this having on the environment in regards household energy consumption and disposing of old electronic devices?

If you enjoy technology, keep it sustainable

When it comes to use of electronic devices the majority of people never think of the environmental impacts. How electronic devices are disposed of is important if society want to keep technology affordable so it can be enjoyed. West (2016) states that, “recovered plastics can and are recycled into plastic components for new electronic devices” (1). If televisions and mobile phones could be recycled more it will preserve the expensive material used to make the phones. People need to be encouraged to recycle their old electronic devices. There needs to be an incentive created by the Irish government to entice people to recycle.

Consequences of incorrect disposal

The dangers of not recycling mobile phones occur when they are put into household waste and end up in a landfill. All electrotonic devices have dangerous chemicals and gases within them. The impact this has on the physical environment is that it escapes and pollutes the air, soil and water.  It leaks down below the soil and eventually hits sea level. When this reaches the water it contaminates it and can cause cancer in the worst scenario. Scientists say that children in China have too much lead in their bodies. This results in water pollution. Simultaneously, China has the highest number of phone users (Levin, n.d).

It is in the best interest of the individual that they reconsider how their technology is disposed of. Every Christmas and the January sales companies offer bargains for people to buy new gadgets. This is a big time for the turnover of new devices, however what is happening the old ones? The majority of mobile phones are left to one side however, what about televisions, laptops and tablets?  (Treacy, 2015) ‘In 2014 America recycled only twentyseven percent of their ewaste, this was approximately 649,000 tonnes out of 2.44 million that could have been recycled’ (1).

The main objective is to illustrate that as a nation who uses technology so much and change over especially at Christmas, what way is our devices being disposed of? On the evidence pointed out by Treacy (2015) there is very little waste being recycled in comparison to what could be recycled (Treacy, 2015).  It is important to reconsider how our technology is disposed of this Christmas 2017. Although this is American statistics it backs up the point that societies in general are not recycling as much as they should be. If the technology era is to remain sustainable, policies need to be initiated to maxamise resources.

How many technology gadgets are in our houses, on average?

As mentioned earlier in this blog, society has saw a rapid increase in the use of handheld devices. The internet is certainly at the core of society and within the living rooms. Every house these days has wireless access to the internet. There is broadband routers, digital receivers, mobile phones and tablets. The more people that is in the house, the more technology.

Anders et al., (2015) raises the issue that the globe will eventually face issues in connection with e-sustainability. Within this research report awareness is drawn to phenomenon that is slowly rolling across all our homes. The ‘Internet of everything.’ Televisions have turned into a multi functioning device with build in apps. This is going to be extended as far as fridges, air conditioning and other household appliances (Anders et al., 2015).

The implications of this stated by Anders et al., (2015) are that although energy saving measures have been introduced in the manufacturing process and does make a difference in regards consumer costs on individual electric bills, the problem is constantly growing. The more energy used globally will call for the blanket to be stretched in order to keep on top of e-sustainability (Anders et al., 2015).

This presents as a massive problem based on figures illustrated by Anders et al., (2015). In a measure to forecast electric energy consumption from 2010 to 2030, the units burned for laptops and monitors are set to decrease, the units for smart phones, tablets and wireless routers will increase from 350 million units to an estimated 300 million units (Anders et al., 2015).

Personal gain or company gain?

The driving factors which accelerate the use of technology are at large that of financial nature. A smart phone and data internet are very affordable in today’s world. Remarkably Ireland has the cheapest deals due to the competitiveness that exists among communication companies. It is without doubt that the excessive use of technology has an adverse impact on human interaction. It was invented to provide a connection to friends at a distance, now it is disconnecting friends who are near. E-waste and e-sustainability is definitely an issue that can only be tackled by average people taking active steps. The mission of this blog is to create awareness and make people reconsider their technology usage habits.

References

  • Anders, S., G, Anders & Edler, T (2015) ‘On Global Electricity Usage of Communication Technology: Trends to 2030,’ Challenges, 6, p.117-157.
  • Carr, N. (2008) ‘Is Google Making Us Stupid,’ The Atlantic. July.p.1.
  • Ted Talk (2016). What you are missing while being a digital zombie. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAIxb42FjwE [Accessed 4 Oct. 2016].
  • Levin, H.  (n.d) ‘Electronic Waste (E-Waste) Recycling and Disposal-Facts, Statistics & Solutions. Money Crashers, Available at: https://www.moneycrashers.com/electronic-e-waste-recycling-disposal-facts/ (Accessed: 20 October 2017).
  • Treacy, M. (2015) ‘ The True Impact of not Recycling our Old Electronics, TreeHugger, sustainability made stylish, 23 February. Available at: https://www.treehugger.com/gadgets/true-impact-not-recycling-your-old-electronics.html (Accessed: 20 October 2016).
  • Regan, M. (2013) ‘Irish youth may have higher rates of mental disorder than other countries, Independent.ie, 10 October, p,1.
  • Vernon, L., Modecki, k. and Barber, B. (2017). Mobile Phones in the Bedroom: Trajectories of Sleep Habits and Subsequent Adolescents Psychosocial Development. Child development, (1).
  • Weckler, A. (2015) ‘Irish Mobile Phone Usage highest in the Western World global stats reveal’, Independent.ie, 27 August, p.1.
  • West, L. (2016). ‘Why Recycle Cell Phones?’ Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/why-recycle-cell-phones-1204065 (Accessed: 1 November 2017).

Darragh Gilmartin is currently an undergraduate student in the Bachelor of Sciences (Applied Social Sciences) Degree Programme at the National University of Ireland Galway

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